Finding the right balance between regulation and innovation in micromobility hasn’t always been easy. Take Phoenix, for example, where e-scooter operators are required to show over 400 designated parking zones in their respective apps, as well as require riders to park in these zones by not allowing trips to end outside of them. While we don’t think this is the optimum solution for parking issues, we understand why it’s important to the city, and took the time to implement this feature in our app. Other operators, however, were not as hard-pressed to comply — presumably to make their service more convenient.
Unfortunately, this uneven playing field isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Luckily, this time, the City of Phoenix took initiative to fairly enforce compliance amongst all operators, forcing the non-compliant operators to take their scooters off the streets until they were compliant with Phoenix’s parking rules.
At Spin, we respect our city partners and stand firmly on the side of responsible innovation and true public-private partnership. While we’re not perfect, and are the first to admit we can always improve, we view the regulation of shared micromobility as a long-term and iterative process. And we understand that both regulators and operators will experience friction in their respective goals of ensuring public safety and operating a sustainable business. Natural friction aside, unfortunately, the industry has seen examples of blatant non-compliance by other operators in the space. This has the potential to undercut our collective goals of making streets more sustainable and livable via public-private partnership.
Not all regulation is perfect, and at the end of the day, as private enterprises, we have to run businesses and employ our workers. Reactive regulation has the chance to let perfect become the enemy of the good. But companies making good-faith efforts to play by the rules shouldn’t be penalized for their compliance.
Cities can potentially address this issue by:
- Picking trustworthy vendors upfront via a limited permit. We’re seeing more cities narrow their pool of micromobility operators to two or three companies. This shift not only makes it easier for riders, who don’t have to download ten apps, but also eases enforcement for cities.
- Instituting merit-based fleet increases. Cities should consider allowing fleet increases based on an operator’s adherence to rules, as well as their level of responsiveness to the city’s needs and engagement with the community. Portland provides a good blueprint for this type of system, and in the past has granted fleet increases based on responsive behavior and engagement with the community.
- Issuing demerit-based fleet decreases or suspension of services for vendors that willfully break the rules. Cities should retroactively penalize operators who consistently and knowingly disregard data sharing, vehicle allocation, and geofencing rules. This will level the playing field for all operators. Certainly, cities can choose to make their geofencing and allocation rules more liberal after evaluating data and listening to rider feedback. But everyone needs to be operating under the same context.
Finally — we urge the burgeoning micromobility industry to pursue partnership with governments, and to not emulate flagrant actions of a few. Let’s not forget what the north star should be for all of us: a world where sustainable, mobile, and joyful urban environments become the fabric of our society.